Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Latest Senate News – Part I

By Jim Ellis

May 27, 2021 — Incumbents, candidates, and potential candidates are making political moves in some key upcoming 2022 Senate races, which makes now a good time to review the latest happenings. Today we look at the significant developing races alphabetically from Alabama through Nevada. Tomorrow, we cover the remainder.

• Alabama: Sen. Richard Shelby (R) is retiring, and the early Republican primary battle looks to be a match between Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), armed with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, and ex-US Ambassador Lynda Blanchard who is promising to personally spend $5 million on her campaign.

No Democrat has yet come forward to declare a candidacy. US Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), the lone Democratic member of the congressional delegation, has already said she that will seek re-election next year and not run statewide.

• Arizona: Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who won the 2020 special election, must stand for a full six-year term in this election cycle. At this point, four Republicans are in the mix. Term-limited Attorney General Mark Brnovich appears poised to enter the race. Venture capitalist Blake Masters, with presumed major backing from billionaire donor Peter Thiel, is likely to run, as is retired Air Force Major General Michael McGuire. Solar energy company executive Jim Lamon has already announced his candidacy.

This will be a top-tier 2022 Senate campaign and is considered a must-win for both parties.

• Florida: The Sunshine State has been drawing a great deal of political media attention of late, all concerning House members looking to run statewide. It now appears set that Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) is in the governor’s race, while Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) seeks re-election, and Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando) appears set to announce her challenge against two-term Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

The Florida Senate race will be competitive because campaigns in this state are always close and Rep. Demings will be a strong opponent. Incumbent Sen. Rubio, however, begins with a clear advantage.

• Georgia: Like Sen. Kelly in Arizona, freshman Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) won the special 2020 election to serve the balance of an unexpired term. He, too, must stand for a full six-year term next year.

At this point, now that former Rep. Doug Collins says he won’t run, most of the attention centers around former Georgia football legend Herschel Walker (R) and whether he will return from Texas to challenge Sen. Warnock. Walker promises a decision by summer.

If the former football star chooses to pass, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler/Savannah) says he will run. Banking executive Latham Saddler and construction company owner Kelvin King are the announced GOP candidates. The list of potential Republican candidates is long with state House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) being the latest to discuss the race with national GOP leaders.

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A Special Election Look-In

By Jim Ellis

May 26, 2021 — The Albuquerque, New Mexico vacant US House seat will be filled on June 1, and a new RRH Elections survey finds the Democratic nominee holding a strong advantage. In Texas, There is no mystery as to which party will win the July 27 special runoff election in North Texas to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington), but which Republican claims the vacant seat is certainly getting more interesting. We take a look at both races.

NM-1

The RRH Elections poll (May 18-21; 555 NM-1 special election voters and those intending to vote, interactive voice response system and online), finds state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque) leading state Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque), 49-33 percent.

The numbers make sense when overlaying the 1st District voting history. Former Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) naturally resigned the seat after being nominated and confirmed as US Interior Secretary in the Biden Administration weeks after winning re-election to a second term. Her victory percentage was 58, after claiming her first term in 2018 with a 59-36 percent margin.

At one time during the century, the 1st was politically competitive – former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque) held the seat for five terms, ending when she ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2008, for example – but a weakened New Mexico Republican Party and a stronger Democratic composition from redistricting has taken the seat off the board.

President Biden carried the district over former President Trump, 60-37 percent, after Hillary Clinton won here in 2016 with a lower but still comparatively strong 52-35 percent spread. Testing President Biden’s current job approval rating, RRH finds him recording a 57:39 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio, which is similar to his 2020 vote performance. This consistency gives the RHH polling data further credibility.

In terms of finances, Stansbury had raised $1.2 million through the May 12 pre-primary reporting period, with $525,000 cash-on-hand as of that date. Sen. Moores, by contrast, had obtained $595,000 with $125,000 in the bank. His receipts total includes a $200,000 personal loan.

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Rep. LaHood Considering Judicial Bid

By Jim Ellis

Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria)

May 25, 2021 — An interesting story is breaking in Illinois that involves four-term US Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria). Reports suggest that the congressman is considering running for an open state Supreme Court position next year instead of re-election.

The move would make some sense in that winning the 3rd District Supreme Court position would appear to give Republicans a 4-3 majority on the judicial panel, the only area of power that the GOP would control in the state.

Considering the Illinois congressional map is a heavy Democratic gerrymander (13D-5R statewide) and will likely continue as such under a new 17-seat map (down one from the current 18) to be drawn when the Census Bureau reports the track data to the states, probability is high that the collapsed seat will be Republican and come from Illinois’ downstate region.

Though fewer people reside in the state of Illinois today than 10 years ago, the population loss appears greater outside the Chicago metropolitan area. Democrats, with their wide majorities in both houses of the state legislature, will assuredly capitalize upon the opportunity of collapsing two of the few remaining GOP seats into one. This means despite languishing in a severe minority, Republican congressional strength in the state will likely diminish even further.

Illinois is one of the few states that runs its Supreme Court elections by districts. Justices are initially elected in partisan elections for 10-year terms, and then must stand for a yes-no retention vote to secure succeeding terms. To win retention, a justice must receive at least a 60 percent yes vote.

Third District Justice Thomas Kilbride recorded only a 56.5 percent yes vote in the November election; therefore, he was defeated. His appointed replacement, Democratic Justice Robert Carter, has already said he will not seek a full 10-year term in 2022, meaning the position will be open for election.

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Conflicting Electorate Clues

By Jim Ellis

President Joe Biden lingers at the bottom of presidential rankings after his first 100 days.

May 24, 2021 — Data points are routinely being published covering the electorate’s status, leading to various conflicting conclusions. This allows both Democrats and Republicans to promote favorable prediction trends for the 2022 elections.

Presidential job approval is often used as a key prediction benchmark. The Gallup Research organization pioneered presidential job approval tracking, beginning in the 1950s with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the tradition continues today.

During that approximate 70-year period, the average performance for a newly elected president in his first 100 days in office is 61 percent favorable. Only those presidents who were elected are included in the Gallup survey. This means that presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, who ascended to the office when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Gerald R. Ford, who became president when Richard M. Nixon resigned, are not included.

If you remove, however, the highest rated national leader, President Kennedy (81 percent approval) and the lowest, President Donald J. Trump (41 percent), the adjusted average climbs to 63 percent.

In his first 100 days, Gallup rates President Biden with a 57 percent approval figure, thereby placing him as only the 9th most popular of the 11 newly elected modern era chief executives.

The top three rated presidents in their first 100 days are Kennedy (81 percent), Eisenhower (74 percent), and Ronald Reagan (67 percent). The three lowest are presidents Trump (41 percent), Bill Clinton (55 percent), and Biden (57 percent).

Other surveys rate Biden’s performance somewhat lower, however. In the month of May, eight additional pollsters have tested the president’s job performance and found his favorable score in a tight range, from 51-54 percent with his disapproval percentage spanning from 35 to 48.

The generic polling question is one where a survey respondent is asked whether they would vote for the Republican or Democratic House of Representatives candidate. Right now, we’re seeing the generic numbers span the ideological spectrum, which tells us the great partisan divide is still very much alive. The left-leaning pollsters are seeing big leads for Democrats, while the more conservative-oriented pollsters find the responses very tight.

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New Seat Location in North Carolina

North Carolina’s 12 Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

May 21, 2021 — With the new reapportionment map public and the states gaining congressional districts now certain, we can begin to speculate where the new CDs might land. Today, we look at North Carolina, which continues to be one of the most important states from a national redistricting perspective.

The Census Bureau’s apportionment report, released on April 26, almost five months after their Jan. 1 deadline, contained the smallest transfer of congressional seats since the World War II era.

Just seven seats are moving from one state to another. As mentioned above, one of the recipients is North Carolina, the state that came the closest to gaining in the last census, missing by just a few thousand people. Today, we speculate as to how a new North Carolina congressional map might unfold.

The 2020 individual state population data has not yet been distributed and is not expected until October, apparently at the earliest. Once the specific state data is made public, the redistricting process can begin, but for now we can only use the latest available data (July 2019) for estimation purposes.

In examining the population numbers for each of the 13 current North Carolina congressional districts, we see that all must shed population to reach the state’s Census Bureau target number of 746,711 individuals, hence, the reason for the Tar Heel State gaining a new district.

In North Carolina, the state legislature has sole jurisdiction over redistricting. The governor, in this case Democrat Roy Cooper, has no veto power over the maps both houses jointly produce. This means the Republicans will control the process since they hold majorities in both the state House and Senate.

No matter what map is drawn, we can count on seeing post-redistricting litigation. In the previous decade, the courts twice altered the original map because of various lawsuits. The final iteration broke 8-5 in favor of the Republicans after the state Supreme Court redrew sections of the state and in effect awarded two previously Republican seats in Raleigh and Greensboro, respectively, to the Democrats.

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